The Sevens Find Their One
This was not the start the Delaware 87ers were looking for in their inaugural NBA D-League season.
The team lost its first three games by an average of 22.3 points, thanks in large part to a 44-point loss to the defending NBA D-League champion Rio Grande Valley Vipers on Dec. 3.
It wasn't just that they were losing, but how they were losing that was concerning for head coach Rod Baker, who used 69 different five-man lineup combinations in their first three games to try to find a group that worked well together.
Despite playing at the third fastest pace in the league (111.2 possessions per 48 minutes), they were in the middle of the pack in scoring (105.7 ppg, 10th in D-League), in the bottom third in assists (17.0 apg, T-12 in D-League) and ranked last in turnovers (24.7 per game, 17th in D-League).
That's 24.7 turnovers compared to just 17.0 assists -- a 0.69 assist-to-turnover ratio. Ouch.
Delaware 87ers -- First Three Games (Nov 23-Dec 3)
The 87ers were in desperate need of a playmaker who could facilitate to his teammates rather than his opponents.
Enter Kendall Marshall. The 12th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft was waived by the Washington Wizards in October and signed with the 87ers on Dec. 4.
The Sevens have played three games since Marshall arrived, going 2-1 with the University of North Carolina product running the point, with their only loss coming to the seemingly unbeatable Vipers (NBA D-League record 18 straight regular season wins and counting).
Delaware 87ers -- Next Three Games (Dec 5-8)
The Sevens are averaging nearly 10 more points per game since Marshall arrived. The assists are up (+5.3), the turnovers are down (-4.4) and the assist-to-turnover ratio is back over the 1-to-1 line (1.10, 7th in NBA D-League).
By taking better care of the ball, the Sevens have improved dramatically on both ends of the floor. Rather than giving up an average of 37.3 points off turnovers like they did over the first three games, the Sevens have allowed just 23.3 over the last three. The reduction in turnovers has also helped cut their opponents fast break points from 21.7 per game to 14.7 per game.
Delaware 87ers -- Misc Stats Comparison
|First 3 Games||Last 3 Games|
|PTS OFF TOV||20.0||37.3||25.0||23.3|
Not only are the Sevens not giving the ball to their opponents as often, they are sharing with each other at a much higher rate. Through the first three games, only 45.9 percent of the Sevens' field goals were assisted. That is up to 56.8 percent over the past three games. It helps that their field goal percentages are also up across the board -- FG (43.9% to 46.5%), 3PT (29.0% to 42.1%) and FT (68.0% to 77.7%). A look at their True Shooting Percentage, which accounts for FGs, 3PTs and FTs, shows it best (53.4% to 58.9%). So does a side-by-side comparison of their shot charts.
|First Three Games (Nov 23-Dec 3)
||Last Three Games (Dec 5-Dec 8)
The result is an offensive efficiency up by 11.7 points per 100 possessions and defensive efficiency improved by 9.8 points per 100 possessions for Delaware. They have gone from a team being outscored by 21.8 points per 100 possessions to one that is playing nearly even with their opponents (-0.3 points per 100). So, even as their pace has slowed down a bit (110.2 to 107.0), the Sevens are scoring at a much higher rate on offense, and no longer getting abused defensively.
Marshall's numbers reflect this improvement. Through three games, he is averaging team-highs in points (21.0 per game), assists (9.0) and 3-point shooting (55.05 percent), while grabbing the third most rebounds (6.3) on the squad.
Kendall Marshall -- First 3 Games
A look at his advanced metrics show that he is assisting on 42.9 percent of his teammates' field goals, and his on-court offensive efficiency (107.0) is nearly identical to that of the team over the past three games (106.9).
While Marshall has been the catalyst behind Delaware's turnaround, there is plenty of credit to be shared for this dramatic improvement.
Thanasis Antetokounmpo went from averaging 23.3 minutes and producing 7.0 points, 2.3 rebounds, 46.7 percent (7-15) shooting from the field and 25.0 percent (2-8) from three to averaging 37.0 minutes per game and putting up 21.0 points and 4.0 rebounds while shooting 60.0 percent (21-35) from the field and 50 percent (9-18) from downtown.
Additionally, Reeves Nelson has appeared in three of the team's last four games and is averaging 17.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game, while shooting 61.3 percent from the field.